Why Make It Easy?


More than a few times over the last couple of months I’ve had to stop what I was doing and laugh a little bit at the situations I get myself into. After years of having to deal with computer issues related to music-making, I finally have a problem free set up. No more hardware incompatibilities, chipset issues, lack of driver support, or OS updates that cause all manner of software issues.

My current laptop is more than fast enough to run as many of my biggest CPU-hogging plug-ins as I want, I have more memory than I’ll ever use, and with SSD drives and USB3 external hardware, data transfers and back ups are lightening fast. My preferred DAWs are mature and stable, I know them inside and out, and one of them (Ableton Live) even has a dedicated MIDI Controller that’s not only solidly built, but super intuitive to use.

In short, I have a music set up that’s more or less ideal; fast, portable, stable, and generally a breeze to use day in and day out. Which makes it all the baffling why I’m not using it for writing music much these days!

No, instead of taking the easy route, one that I know very well and can rely on to work exactly as I expect, I’ve decided to make music on an iPad these days. And once again it feels almost like it used to when I first got into computer music. Apps sometimes crash for no reason, there’s memory-usage issues to keep track of, compatibility between apps is still hit or miss, and there’s a real lack of standardization still when it comes to sync and routing between apps. It’s hard to look at my laptop after spending an hour trying to troubleshoot some weird iOS issue and not chuckle a little at the decisions I make sometimes when it comes to my music. Sort of like selling my Elektrons to buy an acoustic guitar. 🙂

To be fair, there’s not THAT many times I run into an issue on the iPad when I’m working on a song. Most of the problems tend to be app specific at this point, and the major apps usually run fairly well. Apps that give me more than a couple problems tend to get deleted until they are more stable. The biggest issues so far involve things like Audiobus or Inter-App Audio being flaky, sometimes it works like you expect, sometimes it doesn’t work at all.

Memory use is the other concern, with even the latest iPads only having 1GB of RAM, and the OS taking about half of that on average. Start opening up more than a few apps that are memory hogs and you’re likely going to discover that iOS closes apps when they take up too much memory making them look like they crashed. Doh!

Oh well, I’ve learned to just move on these days and keep working, trying not to let some small bug slow me down much. The limitations and little problems here and there keep me working fast and lean, and force me to not go overboard when writing songs.  Focus on the core song ideas and trim the fat is the way forward when writing with “limited” resources, so in some ways it’s making me a better songwriter I feel.

Still, it’s hard to ignore that little voice asking “Why not make it easy? Use the laptop, forget these issues and come back to the land of abundant CPU-power and stable music software”. Of course, that would be the easy way, but I just have to remind myself that if it was supposed to be easy, everyone would be doing it 🙂

2 Replies to “Why Make It Easy?”

  1. I think it’s just a part of our personalities. We’re good at fixing things, troubleshooting and finding a resolution; and we get a sense of accomplishment out of that, despite it actually setting us back as musicians.
    With the RAM limitations on the iPad, I’ve all but let go of the idea of making music on it; I’m using it with low RAM intensive applications, just as a controller for the Mac apps. It was fun to play around with for a while, but a 2 or 4GB RAM version is needed for anything other than casual fun, IMHO. There’s just nothing that can be done about the limitations; no way to upgrade the RAM, like we can on our Macs.

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